‘Walking along Amsterdam’s canals can be an amazing experience’

melinda jacobs

Entrepreneur Melinda Jacobs, 28, is an American who studied digital gaming in Utrecht and now runs two start-ups.

We ask her 10 questions about her life in the Netherlands.


How did you end up in the Netherlands?
I came to the Netherlands in 2008 to follow a two-year research MA at Utrecht University studying digital games. I did a summer abroad in Germany during my BA and afterward took the time to visit the Netherlands and Sweden. Following my graduation I decided I wanted to come back to Europe and chose the Netherlands.

How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc – and why?
I would describe myself as an international. Even though the Netherlands is my home base, I don’t feel like living here is my main identity, so not an immigrant, and I don’t feel like being American is either, so I’m not an expat.

How long do you plan to stay?
I plan to see where life and work takes me. For now, I have no intention to leave the Netherlands, but am sure a day will come where I want to explore a new country.

Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn?
I speak enough Dutch to get by. I took one A level course, but I learned what I know mostly from reading the newspaper, watching television, and practicing with Dutch friends. It’s hard to learn as my work is mainly with internationals, so on average no one speaks Dutch, or they prefer to speak English. Recently I’ve been practicing with my partner’s ‘oma’. I teach her more English, and she teaches me more Dutch.

What’s your favourite Dutch food?
Not so original, but I would say stamppot with endive and ‘spek’. One of the things I love most about the Netherlands is the easy access to food from around the world.

What do you miss about back home?
Customer service. I really miss the American mentality toward it.

How Dutch have you become?
Not necessarily very Dutch. I would say I feel more European if anything.

What’s your top tourist tip
If you’re a foodie like me, I would recommend going to the River Kwai (Utrecht) for amazing Thai or Loetje for the best traditional steak and chips in Amsterdam. There’s also D’Vijff Vlieghen (Amsterdam) if you want a more modern gourmet menu.

If you’re a fan of craft beer, I would recommend going to In De Wildeman (Amsterdam), Cafe Olivier’s (Utrecht), ‘t Klooster (Delft), or De Rat (Utrecht). ‘t Klooster also has an amazing menu for dinner with beer parings.

For a true taste of the Dutch try Proeflokaal Arendsnest (Amsterdam). If you are more a whiskey fan, be sure to check out L&B’s (Amsterdam). There’s also the Brouwerij t’ij, especially in the summer. Try the IPA. For museums, I’d recommend Nemo and the House of Bols (do a cocktail workshop if you can!).

Check out the EYE for a look into cinematography.  Just walking along the canals of Amsterdam can also be an amazing experience.

Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands
The sense of entitlement. It has very positive, but also very challenging, effects. On the positive, education and gender equality are seen – by most – as a right (as it should be). On the other side, as a small business owner it can be difficult to manage expectations between what a small company can offer and what a large one can in terms of employment. This makes the Netherlands a very difficult place to be a startup.

If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do?
Grab a beer at Brouwerij ‘t IJ, have dinner at the Bird, and walk along the canals of Amsterdam to Bourbon Street for some live music.

Melinda Jacobs is the founder of Subatomic and recently founded startup, Clustr, which helps small local businesses create and manage an omni-channel presence.

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